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Teacher injury language part of bill's 'stunning' 0-50 defeat in Indiana Senate

HB1107 would have tracked school employee injuries
Hannah Moody left the teaching profession after losing 80% of the hearing in her right ear during an Elwood second grader’s outburst.
Posted at 5:03 AM, Mar 16, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — In what some lawmakers are calling a “stunning” outcome, a bill that would have tracked school employees injured on the job failed with a 0-50 vote.

“The outcome was stunning,” said Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, author of House Bill 1107. “I was shocked.”

The bill would require schools to report school employee injuries to the Indiana Department of Education, which would post a public database on its website with any personally identifiable information removed.

Clere’s wife is a teacher at Clarksville High School, and she was injured while breaking up a fight.

“She was kicked in the kidney and had to go to urgent care,” said Clere.

WRTV Investigates has been digging into the issue of teacher injuries since 2019.

We filed records requests with two dozen school districts and uncovered incidents of teachers hit, kicked, punched, and bit by students.

PREVIOUS | Elwood teacher loses hearing as a result of injury caused by student

“No one is tracking this, and it’s a big problem,” said Clere. “We don’t have any numbers. We don’t have any data, so we don’t know where and how it’s happening.”

Rep. Clere’s bill would also require teachers to be trained on conflict de-escalation techniques.

With bipartisan support, HB 1107 bill passed out of the House.

But in the Senate, HB 1107 received no testimony and no questions from lawmakers.

In a rare display, lawmakers cheered and laughed as each senator voted no — and eventually, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, changed his vote from yes to no.

HB 1107, including the teacher injury language, failed with a 0-50 vote on March 1.

“We weren’t expecting what happened on the Senate floor,” said Clere. “There was no discussion, no one got up and said anything for or against the bill, no objection, no concerns raised.”

Clere, a Republican, voted differently than his own party on several controversial issues including HB 1134 and HB 1041, a bill that bans transgender females from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.

Kim Dodson, executive director at the Arc of Indiana, explained the teacher injury was just one part of a seven-part bill that also attempted to address issues with special education.

“It was horrible, just horrible, and it showed a lot of disrespect for the issues that some people care a lot about,” said Dodson.

WRTV Investigates reached out to Senate President Pro Tempore Rodrick Bray on the response to HB 1107.

He was unavailable for an interview, but his office says the 0-50 vote was not about the teacher injury language.

One of the bill’s provisions would have shifted the burden of proof from parents to schools when it comes to special education complaints.

Even though the burden of proof language was removed, senators wanted to kill it to ensure the language would not come back.

“It’s very sad that senators were cheering over the failure of a bill involving special needs students,” said Clere.

Kim Dodson says this legislative session, lawmakers spent more time on issues like critical race theory and transgender athletes.

“It took so much time and energy away from legislators that they didn't seem to commit the same amount of time to learn about other issues and move other bills along,” said Dodson.

Clere says he plans to file the teacher injury language again next year.

“I would love to continue to work on it,” said Clere. “It’s a missed opportunity because Indiana will go for another year without understanding what is happening in schools when it comes to injuries to school employees.”

He says the 0-50 vote is a slap in the face for many teachers who are concerned about their safety in school.

Hannah Moody left the teaching profession after losing 80% of the hearing in her right ear during an Elwood second grader’s outburst.

“I got a phone call saying I needed to come down because they were taking him down to the consequence room,” Moody said. “I was trying to talk to him through the door.”

The student broke off the door handle and threw it at metal on the door, Moody said.

“Next thing we knew, it sounded like a bomb went off,” Moody said. “My ear was on the other side of the door, and it went straight into my ear.”

PREVIOUS | Elwood teacher loses hearing as a result of student outburst

Moody got her master’s degree in library science after the incident and now works in a library. She has no plans to go back to teaching.

“I don’t trust that I’ll be supported,” she said.

WRTV Investigates reached out to the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, which has testified against portions of HB 1107, and we are waiting to hear back.

The Indiana State Teachers Association provided the following statement:

“We thank Rep. Clere for working with ISTA on some of the provisions in HB 1107. He truly worked hard on this bill and it’s disappointing that it did not continue moving to keep the conversation going about the important concepts in the bill. Maintaining a state database of school employee injuries by students and enhancing current teacher training with de-escalation techniques and prevention strategies was a priority for ISTA this year. We look forward to working with Rep. Clere next session on these issues and others.”

More than 320 teachers responded to a WRTV Investigates teacher survey and said the biggest problem facing teachers is student behavior (28 percent), followed by pressure surrounding standardized tests (23 percent) and compensation (14 percent).

Of the teachers who responded to our survey, 70% of Indiana teachers say they've witnessed a student physically assault a teacher, and 53% say they have personally been injured on the job.

Ninety-three percent said the schools and legislature should do more to address teacher safety.

Kara Teacher Survey Results (Text)

Teachers told WRTV Investigates disturbing accounts including one teacher who suffered three concussions due to being hit punched and kicked, another who said a student grabbed her breast and sexually assaulted her.

Other examples:

  • “A student grabbed my bra strap from behind and tore my earrings out.”
  • “Was attempting to break up a boy fight and was unintentionally thrown by one of the boys.”
  • “The same student broke my toes and stabbed me with a pencil.”
  • “Tripped intentionally by a student; dislocated thumb by trying to help an upset child.”
  • “Stabbed in leg with pair of scissors. Door shut on my hand.”

Another teacher who filled out the survey said a student urinated on her.
PREVIOUS | Hundreds of Indiana teachers injured by students, school records show